Friday, May 01, 2015

Mysteries Behind The O.K. Corral

May 1, 2015
   How did a botched, misdemeanor arrest go from a footnote to one of the THE seminal moments in Old West history? That is a question we aim to answer in an upcoming issue of True West.

 Daily Whip Out: "Wyatt Gets To Fighting While Ike Beats Cheeks"

Mysteries Behind The O.K Corral
   For most of three decades, as cinema took hold of the world's imagination, the Tombstone story was more or less ignored. What happened in the 1920s to change that? And what did it take for Wyatt's story to finally take its place, front and center, in the hallowed grounds of Western myth and legend?

   Part of this answer is found in a new novel by Mary Doria Russell. Here is her set-up:

"To understand the gunfight in Tombstone, stop—now—and watch a clock for thirty seconds. Listen to it tick while you try to imagine one half of a single minute so terrible it will pursue you all your life and far beyond the grave.

Begin your half minute with righteous confidence though you stand six paces from armed and angry men. They have abused you. They have threatened your life. Your rage and fear are justified. They are in the wrong. You are within the law. About all this, have no doubt.

Two quiet clicks. A breathless instant. The gunfire becomes deafening. When a sudden silence falls, just thirty seconds later, the life you thought was yours will be over. . .

Whatever your name, it will be blackened.

Every flaw, every mistake held up for scrutiny, condemnation, ridicule. Your secrets made public. Your reputation twisted and sere as a blighted leaf. Every accomplishment, every act of kindness or courage forgotten. Everything you were, everything you hoped for, everything you planned. . .gone.

Whether you live another five minutes or another fifty years, those awful thirty seconds will become a private eclipse of the sun, darkening every moment left to you. You will be cursed with a kind of immortality. Year after year, everything that did and did not happen during those thirty seconds of confusion and noise, smoke and pain will be analyzed and described, distorted and disputed.

A century will pass, and decades more. Still, the living will haunt the dead as that half minute becomes entertainment for hundreds of millions round the world. Long after you die, you will be judged by those who cannot imagine standing six paces from armed and angry men.

Not even for thirty seconds."

—Mary Doria Russell, in her novel "Epitaph"

"That is damn near poetry."
—BBB upon hearing his wife read this opening aloud, while her husband drank coffee in bed, after returning from the Tucson Book Festival where Kathy bought a signed edition of "Epitaph."


  1. I read her book about Doc Holliday and loved it. I'll be getting this one too.

  2. The same way a botched arrest in Baltimore led to riots and six indictments of the arresting officers

  3. Anonymous9:25 PM

    When I look at or read anything about the Old West, including this magazine, I think about how the majority of those interested are probably Baby Boomers. I'm one.. and I am curious - what is BBB's perspective regarding the interest in the Old West? (this is a literary but also a marketing question).. Will the decline of the Boomer gen bring about a decline in this interest?..will there be enough interest within younger gens? How do today's teen-through-thirty-somethings feel about the Old West.. I know many show interest and in smaller western towns, especially, there are young people who effect the lifestyle of "Western"..but.. my gen was and still is huge. Any analysis/surveys been done about this? I've been in AZ since 61 when I was 13.. graduated from the 8th grade in that one room school in Crown King and rode a mule there most summers..I worked on a western collection at UofA and lived all over this state..and now live on my property along the banks of the Gila River. I'm a Viet Vet and Forest Service retiree..and local songwriter and performer.. I love the Old West and have read much about it, especially since shotgunning my TV eight years an article about the above interest in the West would be a timely piece.. thanks


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